The Locarno InternationalFilm Festival has a delegation in AFM prepping for next year's 60thanniversary edition which runs Aug 1 to 11, 2007.

Artistic director FredericMaire, who took over from Irene Bignardi in Oct 2005, has announced that thefestival is looking to introduce an international shorts competition sectionfor the first time next year to go alongside the Swiss shorts competitionstrand.

"For 17 years, we have had aSwiss shorts competition section and a focus on a particular territory," hesaid. "Now we want to open an international competition section not likeClermont-Ferrand but for young directors fresh out of film school. We want tostay a discovery festival."

Meanwhile, Maire is heredrumming up awareness of Locarno as a launchpad in Europe for major Hollywoodand US independent titles. This year's event opened with the internationalpremiere of Universal's Miami Viceand closed with the international premiere of Fox Searchlight/20thCentury Fox International's Little Miss Sunshine. Maire also programmed several independent US titlesin competition like Half Nelsonand Stephanie Dailey.

"Our position in Augustmeans that we are after Cannes and before Venice, but we are a good alternativefor some films and a good launch platform for big films," he said, adding thatthe population of Locarno blends Italian-speaking, French-speaking andGerman-speaking people. "As a test market for Europe, it's a good way to seehow people react."

Maire plans no othersignificant changes for the 60th edition aside from what he calls a"polish" of existing sections. "We want to reduce the number of films, clarifysome sections, enhance the market and establish a new corporate identity."

Maire is accompanied here byNadia Dresti, who is head of the industry office, and Tiziana Finzi, who ishead of programming.